Thursday, July 11, 2013
Yesterday evening I was humbly enlightened by one of my children. She and her sister presented me with two similar drawings pictured above. When speaking of the creatures they had drawn, I described one as featuring a human head and duck body and the other as featuring a duck head and human body. Upon receiving my description, my daughter replied, "A head is a part of a body." I laughed at myself and agreed with her, stating that I disagreed with my initial take on the drawings.
This conversation may come across as a debate in semantics, but I think it's much more than that. The language we use reflects our thoughts, beliefs, and habitual ways of living. People often talk about being stuck "in their head", which keeps them from feeling present and fully embodied. We often think of exercising our minds and bodies separately as if they were disconnected parts of us. A split is created between mind and body that weakens our ability to accurately feel what our bodies are doing and makes us more prone to strain and injury.
It's easy to get the idea that since with your head you think, listen, see, hear, smell, taste, that the rest of you, your "body" just takes you around and gets you places and you exercise it so that it will look good.
There's a lot going on cognitively and in terms of our senses in our heads, but our heads are just as much a part of our bodies as everything below. The more we live as a whole person, the more present we feel. We feel more integrated and lively, less likely to strain or injure ourselves when working out, and more likely to be aware of our posture when we're tapping away on our electronic devices.
One of F.M. Alexander's books on the Alexander Technique is titled "The Use of the Self". "Self" gets around the division unifies mind and body. When learning the Alexander Technique, people learn to use themselves well. Sometimes the tune of "using yourself" rings oddly to the ear, which makes sense. It's not something often said if we think of mind and body as separate.
So here's the big question that you can feel free to answer in the comments below . . . Would you rather have a human head and duck "rest of body" or a duck head and human "rest of body". :-)